Customizing gone wrong By Joe Kosch
Part of the fun of driving UTVs is modifying and customizing them, but you have to be careful when ordering parts. Let’s say you get the urge to build a monster UTV starting with a Polaris RZR Pro XP, a machine that’s a monster to begin with. You plan to stomp all the heavily modified two- and three-cylinder machines out there by dropping in a big six-cylinder car engine. Yeah, twice as many cylinders as a triple ought to do it! The right six-cylinder engine might do the job, but don’t pick the 4000cc straight six from the 1977 Camaro. Your project machine will gain a few hundred pounds and lose 76 horsepower. That’s right, the ‘77 Camaro’s 4000cc inline six-cylinder only put out 105 horses. Disappointed with the Chevy six, you might be tempted to give a Ford V-8 a try. Skip the 1977 Mustang 5-liter. It made a whopping 134 horsepower from 5,000cc, so you’ll add even more weight, and you’ll still have 47 horsepower less than the stock Polaris two-cylinder turbo engine.
Maybe the whole engine-swap idea isn’t so hot. A nice aftermarket exhaust system ought to do the trick. You might want to visit a dealer to avoid clicking on the wrong exhaust online. If you order the Quicksilver Titanium Super Sport exhaust for the Bugatti Veyron by mistake, your bill will be $40,767.62, plus shipping. What’s even more shocking is, the maker doesn’t even claim a performance increase for the exhaust, just reduced weight and an “elitist sound.” I guess when you rev it up, it sounds like some guys bragging about how their stocks are performing.
Custom wheels are a great addition to any UTV, but you can make mistakes in the wheel department, too. Let’s say you want to add some vintage car style to your project UTV and order wheels from a 1921 Dodge touring car. Right off the bat, these wooden wheels probably aren’t going to hold up real well under the severe loads from jumps and hard cornering. Durability in punishing rocky terrain and whoops is questionable, and the Dodge wheel doesn’t have a lifetime structural warranty like ITP wheels. Wood wheels call for a lot more care than cast aluminum, too. Prolonged exposure to dry conditions will make them split. Too much exposure to water and moisture will make them rot. Don’t park too near the campfire; your wheels might burn up. And who wants to miss a ride because termites ate their wheels? Tire selection could be a problem. The outside tire diameter is a desirable 32 inches, but you’re not going to find your favorite UTV tire for the 24-inch wheel, especially in the 4-inch width the wheel is made for.
Maybe you want to make your machine stand out with really big tires. High Lifter’s huge 35-inch Outlaw R2 is more tire than most UTVers can handle, but you may want to go even bigger. Depending on the budget for your build, you might want to consider a set of Michelin or Bridgestone XDRs, the tires originally designed for the Caterpillar 797B mining truck. The tire is 13 feet tall—that’s 156 inches! Without the wheel, each tire weighs 11,860 pounds, so weight could be a problem unless you step up your machine’s power and seriously upgrade the suspension. You’ll definitely want power steering to turn these babies. The price is pretty massive, too—$42,500 per tire. Once you get the tires, your choice of wheels is very limited. You guessed it, you’ll need to run the stock steel wheels from the Caterpillar 797B. Pray you don’t get a flat out on the trail and have to put a spare on. Each wheel is held by fifty-four 36mm nuts that need to be torqued to 2,300 pound-feet.
Don’t be discouraged by these possible customizing errors. Customizing works best when you’re working with parts made for your machine, and there are dozens of excellent sources of aftermarket accessories, tires, wheels, engine performance parts and suspension upgrades in every issue of Dirt Wheels, each with thousands of ways to individualize your vehicle. Every UTV manufacturer also has an accessory division with thousands of ways to make your machine look and perform just the way you want it to. All you have to do is pick the parts you want, put them on and enjoy the results. It’s way more fun than finding out the junkyard won’t let you return a six-cylinder engine from a 1977 Camaro.